Part of growing up is letting go of the dreams we had as children and young adults. Most of us didn’t grow up to become astronauts or rock stars or princesses, and that’s okay. Each of us has different talents, skills, and interests that shape the person we ultimately become. All of these have a way of changing and growing over time and, during that process, we begin to accept that some things just aren’t in the cards for us. Usually that’s okay because we’ve outgrown some of our dreams, but others still sting a bit when we think about them. These are usually the things we really, truly wanted and now realize are either not practical or, worse, impossible.
Like everyone else, I’ve let go of a number of dreams. I know I’ll never marry Indiana Jones or live in a tree house, and that’s all fine and good because I’ve outgrown those childhood fantasies. I also accepted that I’ll probably never get to be a dad and, similarly, that I’ll never have a good relationship with my father.
Queer men often have complicated relationships with our fathers. Fathers from older generations often tried to prepare their queer sons for the world by teaching us to hide ourselves so we can fit in and have a chance to prosper. Often these lessons were taught the hard way, by withholding love and affection or by being critical and disapproving. This is terrible for kids and results in a fractured relationship that has the potential to heal, but only if both parties commit to doing the difficult work of opening up and sharing. That’s easier said than done when the established dynamic is centered around showing others what we think they want to see instead of who we truly are.
Until recently, this was the life my father and I lived. There were certain things we didn’t talk about and, though this wasn’t exactly my dream, it allowed us to begin to heal the relationship we slowly tore apart over a period of decades. It was progress, and I was happy with this progress. Still, I was cautious and had preemptively accepted that there would always be limits and open secrets in our relationship.
Then everything changed. There was a medical event and I became my father’s primary caregiver. It was a scary time for both of us and, because it was scary, my urge to aggressively nurture others went unchecked. Suddenly it was so easy, so effortless to show the love and care that had never been allowed between us. Then, a few days into our new routine of appointments and physical therapy and pill-sorting and endless laundry, I realized that, in a way, I now get to be the dad I always wanted to be. Our roles have reversed while also remaining the same. He began to get better and, as he healed, so did our relationship.
Now, for the first time in my life, I know my father loves me and is proud of me. When I heard his words, I felt myself become more whole, as if all the tiny fractures of our relationship had been filled in with all the love and care we are now allowing ourselves to express. For me, what makes this wonderful enough to share with strangers is that I never thought this would happen. I never thought I would have a good relationship with my father and I never thought I would get to play the role of “dad.” Now, through a strange twist of fate, I get to have two things I desperately wanted that I thought were impossible.
Dreams sometimes have funny ways of coming true. Don’t close the door on dreams. Instead, put them on the back burner. Be ready because sometimes what looks like a tragedy can become the happy ending you always wanted.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.